Lighthouses have come a long way since they were burning wood pyres on a seaside cliff. Now the USCG has turned on the first LED-based rotating beacon in a U.S. lighthouse.
Light-producing technology progressed from flames to candles to lanterns fueled by whale oil, to gas lighting and electrification and then the total automation of lights with built-in units that sensed when an electric bulb had burned out and rotated the next bulb into position. Now the Coast Guard is using LED arrays for rotating beacons.
The first lighthouse to be equipped with this technology is Oak Island Lighthouse on Caswell Beach in North Carolina in the Frying Pan Shoals area.This upgrade is the Coast Guard’s first LED-based rotating beacon for an active aid to navigation and will provide a permanent, cost-effective, and energy-efficient solution for the lighthouse. Necessary renovations of the lighthouse to prepare for the new beacon began in October.
“Lighthouses have navigational and historic significance here in North Carolina,” said Lt. Brittany Akers, chief of waterways management at Coast Guard Sector North Carolina. “The Oak Island Lighthouse is especially notable as it marks the entrance to the Cape Fear River. The modernization of the light will ensure its continued reliable service to the mariner in a cost-effective way that respects the historical significance of the lighthouse.”